Elon Musk has the wrong approach to counting fakes, spam on Twitter: experts

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent Twitter Stocks plummeted on Friday when he said he would take $44 billion social network acquisition “pauses” while he studies the rate of fake accounts and spam on the platform.

Although Musk later clarified that he remained committed to the deal, he continued to meddle in the fake account issue. He wrote on Twitter that his team would do its own analysis and cast doubt on the accuracy of the numbers Twitter reported in its most recent financial filings.

In it first quarter earnings report this year, Twitter admits there are a number of “fake or spam accounts” on its platform, along with legitimate monetization or daily active users (mDAUs). The company reports, “We performed an internal review of a sample of accounts and estimated that false or spam accounts in the first quarter of 2022 on average accounted for less than 5% of our mDAU for the quarter. “

Twitter also admitted to exaggerating the number of users by 1.4 million to 1.9 million users in the past 3 years. “In March 2019, we launched a feature that allows people to link multiple separate accounts together to conveniently switch between accounts,” the company wrote. “There was an error at the time, so actions taken through the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU.”

While Musk may be legitimately curious, experts on social media, misinformation and statistical analysis say his proposed approach to deeper analysis is flawed. regrettably.

This is what SpaceX and Tesla The CEO said he would do to determine how many spam, fake and duplicate accounts exist on Twitter:

“To find out, my team will do a random sample of 100 @twitter followers. I invite others to repeat the same process and see what they discover.” He clarified his methodology in subsequent tweets, adding: “Select any account with a lot of followers” and “Skip the first 1000 followers, then pick every 10th. I’m open to better ideas.”

Musk also said, without providing evidence, that he chose 100 as the sample size for his study because that’s the number Twitter uses to calculate the numbers in their earnings reports.

“Any reasonable random sampling will do. If multiple independents get the same results for %spoof/spam/duplicate accounts, that should speak for itself. I picked 100 as the sample size number, because that’s what Twitter uses to calculate <5 % fake/spam/duplicates."

Twitter declined to comment when asked if his description of its methodology was accurate.

Facebook Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz weighed in on the matter via his own Twitter account, pointing out that Musk’s approach isn’t truly random, using a sample that’s too small and leaving room for major flaws .

He wrote, “Also, I feel like ‘don’t trust the Twitter team to help with sampling’ that’s its own kind of red flag.”

BotSentinel Founder and CEO Christopher Bouzy said in an interview with CNBC that his company’s analysis indicates that 10% to 15% of accounts on Twitter are likely “inauthentic,” including counterfeiters, spammers, scammers, nefarious bots, duplicates and “single purpose hate accounts” that often target and harass individuals, along with others, intentionally spreading the word wrong information.

BotSentinel, powered primarily through crowdfunding, independently analyzes and identifies inauthentic activity on Twitter using a combination of machine learning software and a pool of reviewers. The company monitors more than 2.5 million Twitter accounts today, mostly English-speaking users.

“I think Twitter doesn’t realistically categorize ‘fake and spam’ accounts,” Bouzy said.

He also warned that the number of unauthenticated accounts could appear higher or lower in different corners of Twitter depending on the topics being discussed. For example, more accounts don’t authenticate tweets about politics, crypto, climate change, and liveliness than those discussing non-controversial topics like kittens and origami, BotSentinel found.

“I can’t understand that Musk is doing anything other than trolling us with this silly sampling scheme.”

Carl T Bergstrom

Author, “Calling the Bulls —“

Carl T. Bergstrom, a University of Washington professor who co-wrote a book to help people understand data and avoid being lured by false claims online, told CNBC that sampling one hundred followers of any Twitter account should not be considered “appraisal” for making a valuable acquisition. worth $44 billion.

He says that the sample size of 100 is an order of magnitude less than the norm for social media researchers studying this sort of thing. The biggest problem Musk faces with this approach is called selection bias.

Bergstrom wrote in a message to CNBC, “There is no reason to believe that the followers of official Twitter accounts are a representative sample of accounts on the platform. Perhaps bots are less likely to follow this account. Maybe they’re more likely to follow suit to appear legit Who knows? But I can’t understand that Musk is doing anything other than trolling us with a silly sampling scheme this fool.”

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